Approximately 80% of grown-ups with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA) do not have full-time jobs – not because they can’t do the work, but because they often have difficulty being socially acceptable while they get the work done.
Countless studies show individuals would rather have pleasant and personable co-workers than a co-worker who is always right. One Aspie states, “I try to keep this in mind each day, and consequently, I spend a lot of time planning my interactions. But sometimes my plans fail.”
Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of individuals with Aspergers. Both high and low functioning individuals have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most normal individuals. One Aspie states, “I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.”
Some job tips for individuals with Aspergers:
- The boss must recognize your social limitations.
- Sell your work, not your personality. Make a portfolio of your work.
- Jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint.
It is important that Aspergers individuals pick a college major in an area where they can get jobs. Computer science is a good choice because it is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Aspergers or some of its traits. Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. Majors in history, political science, business, English or pure math should be avoided. However, one could major in library science with a minor in history, but the library science degree makes it easier to get a good job.
Some individuals, while they are still in high school, should be encouraged to take courses at a local college in drafting, computer programming or commercial art. This will help keep them motivated and serve as a refuge from teasing. Families with low income may be wondering how they can afford computers for their child to learn programming or computer aided drafting. Used computers can often be obtained for free or at a very low cost when a business or an engineering company upgrades their equipment. Many individuals do not realize that there are many usable older computers sitting in storerooms at schools, banks, factories and other businesses. It will not be the latest new thing, but it is more than adequate for a student to learn on.
A man/woman with Aspergers has to compensate for poor social skills by making themselves so good in a specialized field that individuals will be willing to "buy" their skill even though social skills are poor. This is why making a portfolio of your work is so important. You need to learn a few social survival skills, but you will make friends at work by sharing your shared interest with the other individuals who work in your specialty. One Aspie states, “My social life is almost all work related. I am friends with individuals I do interesting work with.”
Bad Jobs for Individuals with Aspergers—
- Air traffic controller -- Information overload and stress
- Airline ticket agent -- Deal with angry individuals when flights are cancelled
- Cashier -- making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
- Casino dealer -- Too many things to keep track of
- Futures market trader -- Totally impossible
- Receptionist and telephone operator -- Would have problems when the switch board got busy
- Short order cook -- Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
- Taking oral dictation -- Difficult due to auditory processing problems
- Taxi dispatcher -- Too many things to keep track of
- Waitress -- Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers—
- Animal trainer or veterinary technician -- Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
- Automobile mechanic -- Can visualize how the entire car works
- Building maintenance -- Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
- Building trades -- Carpenter or welder. These jobs make good use of visual skills but some individuals will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
- Commercial art -- Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
- Computer animation -- Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. Businesses are recruiting immigrants from overseas because there is a shortage of good programmers in business and industrial fields.
- Computer programming -- Wide-open field with many jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
- Computer-troubleshooter and repair -- Can visualize problems in computers and networks
- Drafting -- Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs. I know individuals who started out at a company doing drafting and then moved into designing and laying out entire factories. To become really skilled at drafting, one needs to learn how to draw by hand first. I have observed that most of the individuals who draw beautiful drawings on a computer learned to draw by hand first. Individuals who never learn to draw by hand first tend to leave important details out of their drawings.
- Equipment designing -- Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
- Factory maintenance -- Repairs and fixes factory equipment
- Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
- Laboratory technician -- Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
- Photography -- Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
- Small appliance and lawnmower repair -- Can make a nice local business
- Video game designer -- Stay out of this field. Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded. There are many more jobs in industrial, communications business and software design computer programming. Another bad thing about this job is exposure to violent images.
- Web page design -- Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work
Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers—
- Accounting -- Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
- Bank Teller -- Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
- Clerk and filing jobs -- knows where every file is
- Computer programming -- Less visual types can be done as freelance work
- Copy editor -- Corrects manuscripts. Many individuals freelance for larger publishers
- Engineering -- Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
- Inventory control -- Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
- Journalist -- Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
- Laboratory technician -- Running laboratory equipment
- Library science -- reference librarian. Help individuals find information in the library or on the Internet.
- Physicist or mathematician -- There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs. Jobs are much more plentiful in computer programming and accounting.
- Statistician -- Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
- Taxi driver -- Knows where every street is
- Telemarketing -- Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. In telephone sales, you avoid many social problems.
- Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work
Jobs for Nonverbal Individuals with Aspergers—
- Copy shop -- Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else.
- Data entry -- If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
- Factory assembly work -- Especially if the environment is quiet
- Fast food restaurant -- Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
- Janitor jobs -- Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
- Lawn and garden work -- Mowing lawns and landscaping work
- Plant care -- Water plants in a large office building
- Recycling plant -- Sorting jobs
- Re-shelving library books -- Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
- Restocking shelves -- In many types of stores
- Warehouse -- Loading trucks, stacking boxes
Many adults with Aspergers and HFA have a hard time finding jobs now. What will the jobless rate be for that group when — if current statistics are correct — the 1 in 50 children who have Aspergers try to become employed? As it is now, lots of adults with Aspergers are looking for full-time jobs, but their gifts are not recognized.
Jobs for Aspergers and HFA Adults
• Anonymous said... As a spouse of an aspie for 24 years, working together I a business, it becomes terribly demoralising when you are ways wrong and told why. The comment in here about that was liberating to me to realise that it is a trait, not me just being useless.
• Anonymous said... I believe my father is an undiagnosed Asperger, he dominates conversation, is always right and inflexible, he goes on and on about himself and his current interests..my mom and he have been married 60 years..God bless her soul..but I also will try to keep in mind that he cannot help it..and I shall just listen respectfully..too late for him to get any sort of social therapy.
• Anonymous said... I was taught to hide the outward behaviors of this disorder. In my mother's defense, they WOULD take kids, put helmets on em on a state home, back then. Thankfully, there's a bit more understanding now. I still struggle with shame and guilt. And it's pretty automatic to mask behaviors. *shrug it's a Spectrum. We are a wide range of supra-normal behaviors
• Anonymous said... I wish I would've known about my Asperger Syndrome prior to going to college. I would've done something much different.
• Anonymous said... I'm a teacher. And a bloody good one. And I have Asperger Syndrome. Remember it's a spectrum. Think of teaching as the effective transition of information to achieve the maximum effect (progress).
• Anonymous said... im studying to be a teacher!!! oh gward...
• Anonymous said... there are no best and worst jobs. autistics are individuals with a very wide variety of talents, skills and interests. the best job for any one person is not the best job for another. likewise with worst jobs. if anything, the best thing for an autistic to do is to not follow typical expectations and standards and do what works best for him or her.
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